Rise of the Dark Mother

To Stir a Bubbling Cauldron

The Ritual of Ahn-Ata'ar

The grateful patron/client for whom the Scrolls of Ahn Ata’ar were retrieved contacted Rogan shortly after the party’s return, and specified that he required the same party who had procured the Scrolls to collect the ritual components and bring them to his estate at Tantalia. Krav objected to the mission, because for one, the invoker who still had no name was a part of the group by happenstance, and he was not certain that she could be trusted, and for another, he considered himself and his comrades to be above the status of errand-boys. Commodore Rogan made it clear to Krav, however, that his client had paid Rogan enough money that his request for personel was going to be honored or Krav and his people would be physically incapacitated, if not killed outright, for refusing the order. This was…decidedly unusual for Rogan, who would assign team members to jobs, but usually left them free to refuse.

The team decided to go ahead with the order, since the money was unusually good and the job looked about as easy as they come. Many of the items they were sent to obtain were rare, and some of them were unknown even to the arcane adepts in the party, including Hair of the Sun God’s Wife, which are delicate-looking implements, golden, curved, and smooth to the touch, and Selurian wine, which is said to have unusual properties when consumed and is worth over 800 GP per cask. There was a catch to this: the party had to arrive in Tantalia within 1 day of getting the milk from the sacred cow, which was not that close to Tantalia.

Most of the components were pretty simple to find, if you could find a decent herbalist or an alchemist with a sense of humor and some knowledge of history. The most difficult part was milking the sacred cow. Thel-Gul is that rarest of deities: a dwarven god of agriculture. His was a tiny group within the Dwarven diaspora, which defied the conventional dwarven way of life for an existence as farmers. They were largely wiped out by other dwarves in a conflict unknown to any outside the dwarves, and forgotten by all but a handful of the dwarves themselves. While the party debated whether to attempt to buy the milk from the priests, steal the milk, or steal the entire cow, the door to the temple swung open, and a dwarf bade the leader and the holy paladin to enter the temple. With an admonition to come to their aid if they had not returned within 1 hour, Krav and Balthazar followed the acolyte into the temple, and the doors closed.

The party members waited outside, eager to have their errand complete and get their money (they had been promised triple, or in some cases, quadruple, their normal daily fee), and debate continued on whether to steal the milk, the cow, or just assault the temple and get their friends back along with whatever else they could take. They had just decided on the last of these options when the doors opened, and Krav and Balthazar emerged, unharmed, bearing a large quantity of milk. When asked what happened to get it, all that Balthazar would say was that they had promises to fulfill when it was all over, and Krav said nothing at all, stewing the whole way to Tantalia.

The party arrived not a moment too soon, and Seneschal Fondlebottom was there to greet the adventurers, attended by servants who immediately whisked off the ritual components. Much to their dismay, the party was informed that they were required to stay at the estate until the ritual was complete, or else their contract would be held unfulfilled. Reluctantly, the group agreed to stay. The seneschal, and for that matter most of the servants, were all halflings, but the estate was by no means lacking in height (or for that matter, breadth, as the lord of this manor owned the entire island). The word “opulent” would be too modest, “baroque” too tasteful, to describe the indulgences that Tantalia had to offer. The party were escorted to private rooms, where attendants ran hot baths and stayed if requested. Once bathed, the group was pampered in any way they asked for—massages, food, music, and other diversions were available to them in whatever kind they desired. They slept well for the first time in weeks, on impossibly luxuriant beds, warmed by bedfellows, if desired.

The next day, they were ritually fasted and bathed again. In the late afternoon, they were asked to dress in ritual garb for the ceremony in which they were expected to take part. The males were given dark, soft breeches and white tunics festooned with ornaments of precious metals and stones. They were given low boots to wear, and ritual collars that the attendants insisted had to be worn at the master’s direction. The women were given sleeveless robes, made of cloth as blue as a peacock’s tail and as green as the richest velvet grass. They too were given ritual collars, crusted with diamonds, and bangles rimmed in gems of sparkling hues. Perhaps more distressing than the lack of armor or the collar were the shoes they were made to wear; the shoes were made such that the women were forced to creep about on their toes, but yet they could not move silently, however they tried.

As they entered what the servants designated as the ritual chamber, four similarly-dressed priests were creating ritual music, with such intense looks of seriousness that they were frightening to behold. The party was led to a ritual altar, around which there were enough seats for each of them, plus one at the head of the altar. The entrance of the master was as grand as he was dimunitive; he strode into the room with an air of absolute ownership. He was dressed as the other males, only more opulently, with rings on his fingers and a ritual headdress as black as the night sky.

“My friends,” he said, “please be seated. Let the ritual of Ahn Ata’ar begin!” With a clap, servants began skittering back and forth, bringing…platters…to the table. Skewered meat, what could only be described as steaming red rocks, and goblets of wine. They were encouraged to eat and drink as they would—and having fasted all day, this was a tempting prospect, indeed! Everyone who drank the wine afterwards described it differently; some described being able to pass through the altar, others saw sprites and darter pixies, still others felt as if they towered over or shrank below their comrades, and some even believed they could fly. As if this had not been enough to completely overload the senses of anyone involved, there was a final part of this ritual that had a bravura all its own: jiggling mounds of what looked like milky oozes were brought to the table, and set before each there, and then the Hair of the Sun God’s Wife was ritually cut, and placed into a brazier. The master pointed a wand at it and uttered a strange word of power, unknown to any arcanist there. Flames shot forth from the wand, engulfing the hair and turning purple. These locks of hair are gingerly arranged on the platters next to the oozes.

“Now,” said the host “consume the last of it, and the ritual will be complete!”

Sweet, creamy, and rich, the oozes were surprising to the taste, and the hair was soft, and smelled of a tropical paradise.

The party were invited again to stay the evening with the host, and were given their ritual garb as gifts.


RageyMage RageyMage

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